By Matt Wiley

In anticipation of increased traffic at the Commerce Park Blvd. end of the New Tampa Gateway Bridge when it is completed in early 2013 (it will link New Tampa Blvd. in West Meadows to Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa Palms), crews have begun work on the widening of Commerce Park Blvd. The lone roadway to both Liberty Middle School and Freedom High will be widened from two lanes to four lanes, from where it currently dead-ends at the student and staff parking entrance to Freedom to just south of Primrose Lake Circle, says City of Tampa transportation manager Jean Duncan, P.E.

The $1.2-million widening of this less-than-one-half-mile stretch will make Commerce Park Blvd. four lanes from the intersection at Tampa Palms Blvd. to where it currently dead ends.

“The widening will help traffic tremendously,” says Duncan. “The signal will help students get in and out of the Freedom student parking lot without having to wait for a gap in traffic.”

Duncan says that the current morning congestion on the roadway also will be alleviated with the traffic signal and additional lanes.

“Right now, the queue to get in and out (of the schools) backs up all the way down Commerce Park Blvd.,” she explains. “Once the lanes are done and the bridge opens, traffic will be able to flow from both sides and will ease that congestion.”

Duncan adds that when the bridge was originally designed, the school complex had not yet been built, so there wasn’t a need for Commerce Park Blvd. to be four lanes all the way down.

So far, the number of open lanes has not changed, but drivers should be aware that the traffic pattern could change as construction goes on.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of February, around the same time as the Gateway Bridge and the widening of the portion of Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. between Palm Springs Blvd. and Pebble Creek Dr. Duncan says that if the Commerce Park Blvd. lanes are done before then, they could open before the bridge.

Freedom principal David Sheppard says that he is looking forward to all of the construction being completed, especially the Gateway Bridge.

“It’s going to be a community connector,” he says. “It’s going to make it so easy for our West Meadows and Richmond Place families to get their students to school. I think it will make it safer for buses and drivers, since they won’t have to mess with (BBD).”

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